Behind the Scenes: Come See the Magic Around Silversea’s Controtempo World Cruise
The first time I watched Controtempo, Silversea’s film previewing its 2025 world cruise, I was merely curious to learn more about the 136-day voyage on Silver Dawn. As the show continued, the combination of music overlaying rich visual images and real-life interactions in places from Tokyo to Hong Kong, Singapore, Mumbai, Istanbul, Naples, Lisbon, Stockholm, Reykjavik and, finally, New York, captured my attention. I began to feel as if I were traveling virtually on this itinerary, as if I were already embarking on this Controtempo.
And that was by design. As I ventured behind the scenes of the creation of Controtempo, World Cruise 2025, I learned that this is more than an itinerary reveal. It’s a film inspired by award-winning artists, composers, writers and directors.
A signficantly sized creative team is responsible for creating Controtempo. It starts with Jose Vuolo, Silversea’s Creative Director, and Andrea Tonet, the company’s Vice President , Product Strategy. It includes Massimo Sbaraccani, a director for the Milan-based production company Zeta. Artist and composer Mino Pesce, collaborating with orchestral composer Vittoria Bimba, created the musical score. And, of course, there’s Fernando Barroso de Oliveira, the President’s Ambassador to Silversea’s Venetian Society, who ties it together as the master of ceremonies.
Controtempo is an enticing introduction to Silversea’s 2025 world cruise – and you’ll be entertained as well as educated. After chatting with members of the team, I was inspired to watch the film again and again and so on to catch the nuances that escaped me on the first viewing. (Click here to watch Controtempo in its entirety; we suggest you pop some fresh popcorn and pour a glass of Champagne).
Here’s what I learned.
It’s important to understand the role Controtempo plays in Silversea’s 2025 world cruise
Controtempo means “back beat” or “off-tempo,” and the 2025 world cruise is just that. Unusually for world cruise itineraries, it starts in winter in Japan and moves east to west. I love how Roberto Martinoli, Silversea’s President and Chief Executive Officer, describes the inspiration: “It’s to take guests closer to the authentic heartbeat of iconic and off-the-beaten-path destinations. We will be traveling to an unusual rhythm, from east to west, with more time ashore in unconventional seasons.”
Traveling off-season to iconic and intriguing places allows those destinations to reveal themselves in a way that’s different from more touristed times of year.
“We’re going at the time of year when you’re not going to find millions of tourists at both marquee and less-discovered destinations,” Silversea’s Tonet says. “We’re traveling deeper because we’re offering a different perspective, a different view, of the places you may think you know.”
How Do You Tell This Story?
Hosted by Fernando, who received a 19-page script, the show originally was meant to last 10 minutes. That meant compressing 136 days of a world cruise into 10 minutes. But that changed.
“It grew to 30 minutes,” says Massimo Sbaracanni, the director. “We wanted to make something light. We had so many things to say, so many interesting things to say and also, we were working with Fernando. He is, of course, always amazing and interesting. In fact, when we were talking about the Mumbai and Bollywood segment of the show, he told us that he’d had a small part in a Bollywood movie, so we incorporated that into the script.“
Fernando, Sbaraccani adds, knows Istanbul well: “We’d already decided to set that segment in a bazaar, and he inspired the setting further, walking us through how the bazaar operates, what can you buy. We added racks of spices and a spice seller to interact in that scene.”
In the end, he says, “My inspiration was Paolo Sorrentino,” the director and writer of the Italian film “The Great Beauty.” Sorrentino, says Sbaracanni also came up with the idea (and writing and director credits) for HBO’s “The New Pope,” and “The Old Pope.” This limited television series, the first ever Italian show to be nominated for an Emmy Award. Diane Keaton, Jude Law and John Malkovich were among the actors who appeared in one of the two series.
What was that inspiration?
In the opening credits of “The Young Pope,” the hero takes a short walk and goes into and seemingly floats through paintings on the side. In Controtempo, Fernando takes a slow-paced walk, from east to west (left to right, so we were moving in tune with the itinerary) “moving together with the camera, walking controtempo. There’s that same dreamy sense of floating through the world.”
The idea, Sbaraccani tells us, “is that you forget you’re watching what essentially is an advertisement. That’s the brilliance of it. It’s both educational and inspirational.”
Incorporating Controtempo – off-tempo – into the production
If you watch closely, you’ll notice some interesting details. Each of the 10 segments of the world cruise, from Japan to Hong Kong and onward, before arriving at voyage’s end in New York, has layers of sensory appeal. Fernando walks in a specific rhythm, calm, constant, consistent. Do you remember reading print newspapers and your eyes moving from left to right? Fernando’s path, consistent with the meaning of controtempo, moves right to left. That gives viewers the idea that they are moving forward. It creates a different sense of movement and geography.
Don’t miss the layers
In every moment, the layers mix with the music that combines in a different way. Fernando’s path takes him past dazzling holographic imagery on the soundstage, occasionally interspersed with still images and maps. Egypt’s Luxor has never looked as magical. And the stage set for Istanbul’s Bazaar? You feel as though you are in the midst of it (and don’t miss the cat).
“The concept of Fernando’s interacting with locals transformed Controtempo into more of a theatrical performance than an itinerary reveal,” Sbaraccani tells me. Indeed, the characters who are real people, pop for me; the spice maker in the Bazaar, the dancers in Mumbai, Marie Antoinette at Versailles.
And it’s also the music!
The great movie music composer Enrico Morricone was a cornerstone behind the inspiration for Silversea’s Vuolo. You may not know the name of this legendary Italian composer, but you’ve likely heard his compositions in such movies as “The Mission,” “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” “The Untouchables” and “Cinema Paradiso,” among many films he scored in his 50-year, award-winning career. “A few weeks before we got started on the film,” Vuolo tells us, “I had the chance to see his beautiful documentary. His story was very impressive, and I had not known the man behind his music.
“He used to insert controtempo to fill the gap between one symphony with another symphony, creating a different rhythm and sound.”
Why does music matter so much in Controtempo?
“The music is the emotional connection with what’s being spoken,” says composer Mino Pesce. “The role of music and sound design can be tough to rationalize, and here’s why it matters: It balances the images and the words.”
Think of the important role music plays in horror films. “If you didn’t have the music, you wouldn’t know to be scared,” he says.
The images, Pesce tells us, “tease your mind, but the music stirs your soul. It prepares you emotionally for what you are going to see.”
Controtempo has 10 different, quite varied soundtracks
Here’s what I love most: Pesce has paired soundtracks to capture the essence of each of the 10 itinerary segments. The soundtrack starts with the Controtempo main theme, “Tokyo to New York,” moving on to “Sounds of the Far East, the Japan to Bangkok route.
- “Fast Cities, Slow Times” captures Singapore to Mumbai, the second segment. Pesce uses a synthesizer to tell the musical story of modern city Singapore and transitions into Mumbai using such instruments as the bell-like glockenspiel, vibraphone and a marimba made of metal. These echo the sound of the Orient Express, with little rhythms, glasses clink-clinking to the vibration of the train (evoking one of the world cruise itinerary’s special overland experiences, Eastern & Oriental Express on a three-day train trip through rural Malaysia).
- For “The Sands of Time,” representing the segment from Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah to the Holy Land, Pesce tells us that he uses the oud, a short-neck lute-type, pear-shaped, fretless stringed instrument, “and starts as a solo in the beginning, giving, really, a sense of place – and space – inspired by the desert, by the blues.”
- “Rhythms of the North,” from Paris to Stockholm, incorporates Northern European jazz, “a lighter, more airy jazz that can be very technical with complicated solos.”
- And for a “Melody of Fire and Ice,” from the Nordic to Greenland, “we use organs, violins for harmonics and resonance. The music creates the sense of the big, wide, open spaces you feel here, the Aurea Borealis, the immenseness of the sky and land. Through the timpani of the drums, you hear the rumble of the geysers, the splashes of the waterfalls and long patterns that feel solemn and sacred.”